Universal acclaim - based on 43 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 37 out of 43
  2. Negative: 1 out of 43
  1. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Sep 20, 2012
    Phoenix's performance is one of such wild, intense abandon that it is not to be believed, and this, in fact, was my problem as The Master sailed into its momentum-less second hour.
  2. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Sep 14, 2012
    Yet, for all of The Master's laudable elements, it falls short of greatness for one simple reason: the storytelling is unspectacular.
  3. 70
    The Master is big screen marvel intended for 70mm projection (a rare treat), with some beautiful imagery, but often inaudible dialogue. Phoenix's lived-in mumble comes off about as clear as Fenster from The Usual Suspects and Amy Adam's precise diction can't even save her harshest talking points.
  4. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Sep 1, 2012
    While the movie is glorious to watch, it brings no coherence or insight to its two main characters.
  5. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Sep 21, 2012
    By bringing so much thought, verve and visual poetry to bear on two neurotics acting out -- rather than on the larger cultural story they anticipate and embody -- The Master turns out to be more of a self-defeating whimper than the big, important bang it could have been.
  6. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Sep 19, 2012
    Fabulously well-acted and crafted, but when I reach for it, my hand closes on air. It has rich material and isn't clear what it thinks about it. It has two performances of Oscar caliber, but do they connect?
  7. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Sep 13, 2012
    Anderson has taken pains to re-create the '50s with superb production design and gorgeous cinematography. But he seems less concerned with whether the audience is along for the ride. The story can leave viewers at sea, floundering to give meaning to what they are watching.
  8. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Sep 21, 2012
    What Anderson's talky and willfully opaque film doesn't have, however, is an unfailingly compelling story to tell.
  9. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    Sep 11, 2012
    I'd trade much of The Master for one extraordinary moment played by the ever-improving Amy Adams, in front of the bathroom mirror with Hoffman.
  10. Reviewed by: Rene Rodriguez
    Sep 21, 2012
    The Master has become a contest between two gifted actors trying to shout each other down. The commitment to their roles is impressive, but it's tethered to a weightless, airless movie, a film so enamored of itself, the audience gets shut out.
  11. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Sep 20, 2012
    If it were just a middling effort, The Master would be a lot less frustrating. But the latest from writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson has greatness in it - two extraordinary performances, intuitive and revealing photography and scene setting, and a distinct directorial sensibility that hovers between sobriety and satire. Yet all those virtues are undermined by a narrative that goes all but dead for the last hour.
  12. Reviewed by: Calum Marsh
    Sep 10, 2012
    The Master is Paul Thomas Anderson with the edges sanded off, the best bits shorn down to nubs.
  13. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Sep 18, 2012
    Call The Master whatever you want, but lobotomized catatonia from what I call the New Hacks can never take the place of well-made narrative films about real people that tell profound stories for a broader and more sophisticated audience. Fads come and go, but as Walter Kerr used to say, "I'll yell tripe whenever tripe is served."
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 399 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 75 out of 150
  2. Negative: 56 out of 150
  1. Sep 17, 2012
    Another amazing epic Paul Thomas Anderson film where every facet of the film is extremely dynamic. It is very dense and there's a lot to take in whether it be the tense, grinding score, the gorgeous shot choices (punctuated by vibrant color and detail in 70mm), or knock out performances from the lead males. The physical work that Joaquin does is outstanding, I have not seen an actor as fully committed and free in a long time, perhaps since Daniel Day in There Will Be Blood. Paul's most interesting film in terms of structure/ editing, jumping through time willy nilly, perhaps mirroring the teachings of Lancaster Dodd or perhaps entering the mind of Freddie continually going back to where he is stuck (the war/ lost loves). The relationship between Dodd and Quell is tense and at times adorable, they are so in love and desire so much to have what the other has: Lancaster wants to act on impulse and not be controlled by any "Master" and Freddie whats to break this insane cycle he seems to find himself trapped in. This film will absolutely take many more viewings and I believe it will continue to grow in my mind as PT's best film (potentially). Full Review »
  2. Sep 17, 2012
    There is a growing chorus of hosannas greeting "The Master" that will no doubt crescendo around Oscar time, but I would like to add my voice to the minority. There are very few negative reviews for this movie. Those I have seen have usually received a stream of venom from readers, who fill the comments sections with wounded outrage. The raves, meanwhile, are telling in their own way. Consider this quote from our own Kenneth Turan ("'The Master' mesmerizes in word and deed", LA Times, 9/13/12): "its interest is not in tidy narrative satisfactions but rather the excesses and extremes of human behavior, the interplay of troubled souls desperate to find their footing." Tidy narrative satisfactions. Here's another: "This is a superbly crafted film that's at times intentionally opaque, as if its creator didn't want us to see all the way into its heart of darkness." Anyone beginning to get a whiff of **** here? No? Perhaps we should take the advice of Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum: "the movie may not even be fully comprehensible on first viewing, the bigger patterns in the narrative and the rhythms of the filmmaking revealing themselves more fully and clearly only with a return visit. Even then The Master is enigmatic." Well, you can't have everything. But Kenneth Turan deserves the final word: "it's disconcerting that the relationship between (Dodd and Quell) gets murkier rather than clearer as time goes on, (but) that is perhaps the point." Yes, we all love being disconcerted by murky enigmas, don't we? There's a certain feeling of sophistication that comes along with it. But this seems to me to be more like the shared thrill of a mob mentality, the kind of thing that gets dictators elected and cult leaders established, a projected fantasy of greatness that finds affirmation in incomprehensible mediocrity. We've seen it before. It would be perhaps too harsh to say that "The Master" is an example of this. There is no doubt a lot fine work on display in this film. But if I want opacity, I can always just stare at a wall. Full Review »
  3. Sep 18, 2012
    It's tempting to label opaque films as profound. Their ambiguity hints at a well of feeling percolating just beneath the surface, one that touches on pain, loss, sadness, everything it is to be human. But, and this may be a hard pill to swallow, sometimes opaque films are just that: opaque. They are pointless exercises in nebulous action and inactive structure for the sake of appearing profound. The Master falls into this category. It is a full 2.5 hours of unbridled fatuous nonsense. Paul Thomas Anderson, who is no doubt a talented writer/director, seems to have gotten lost in his own reputation for literary mystique, and the result is one of the more narcissistic pieces of films I've had the displeasure of watching. Be assured that if any no-name writer/director submitted this script for financing, he/she would have been met with a resounding chorus of criticism, and the project would never have gotten off the ground. The Master presents no story, no real characters, nothing beyond a handsomely shot vacuous mess. The film's climactic moments fail to stir an emotional response because they signify nothing grander than the cinematic arrogance of an auteur that relishes the label auteur. If ever there was an example of narcissism in film, The Master is it. As for the throngs of adoring fans, I would only suggest that artistic output, particularly vague, nonsensical artistic output, has the unique ability to coerce accolades by intimidation. To suggest that there is nothing profound in The Master is to open oneself up to the criticism that he/she was incapable of picking up on the films nuances. It's tempting instead to nod along with the discordant soundtrack and addled story structure and pretend to get it. But I don't feel like nodding along to this because there is nothing here to get. And the unending stream of praise might be the most pointed example of insecurity since the Emperor sauntered out in public wearing his new clothes. Full Review »